Vintage Wedding Traditions

Sixty-four years later, Wayne and Joyce Eberhardt of Issaquah are still laughing about the wheelbarrow. In July 1948, a few weeks after they were married, the newlyweds spent the night at a relative’s house. In the middle of the night, they were awakened by a tremendous racket of bells, whistles, pots, pans and shouting. It’s Chiverie!

Chiverie is a wedding-night prank — a crowd clanging pots and pans, ringing bells and tooting horns interrupts the wedding couple at night. The bride and the groom are expected to appear in their wedding clothes and give treats to their tormentors. For the Eberhardts, the pranksters brought a wheelbarrow for the new wife to hop into and the husband to wheel her around in. In good humor, Wayne and Joyce Eberhardt finished a few laps around the yard with the wheelbarrow as the crowd cheered. The merry pranksters were invited inside for food and drink.

“Then the party really started,” Wayne said, laughing.

Wedding traditions, superstitions and pranks persist because they are fun and meaningful. Every spring, residents at University House Issaquah and the Gardens at Town Square of Bellevue gather and share their wedding stories. At Gardens at Town Square, residents passed around their wedding portraits last year while they traded tales. At University House Issaquah, residents decorated cupcakes to celebrate.

Savoring their cupcake treats, Larry and Gweneth Bliss of Issaquah explained how their wedding day, March 15, 1952, ended with a traditional English celebration — known as the “wedding breakfast.” The happy couple, their friends and family enjoyed a church service followed by a typical church reception with cake. That evening, the bride’s parents invited select guests to their house for the wedding breakfast, a special party to celebrate the newlyweds’ first meal together as a married couple. (Traditionally, it’s called a breakfast because, in 19th-century England, marriages could be solemnized only between 8 a.m. and noon — so the first meal really was breakfast back then.) Eventually, the couple slips away to their honeymoon.

“We carried that tradition on,” said Gweneth Bliss.

The Bliss family hosted a wedding breakfast for their daughter, Karen, and her new husband, Kendall Demaree, in 1997. About 50 invited guests crammed into the Blisses’ Shoreline home to eat roast beef, ham, soup and scores of other dishes. Guests partied so late that many spent the night wherever they found room in the house.

“I borrowed freezers (from neighbors) across the street,” said Gweneth Bliss. “It was fun, because I like to cook and stuff. I like to prepare. I know I was worn out, but we had a lot of fun.

At the Gardens at Town Square, Marjorie Smith of Bellevue clapped her hands with joy to see her long-sleeve candlelit satin wedding dress, which she hadn’t seen in 62 years. She happily described her nuptials to Frank Calhoun Smith on July 17, 1948, in Washington, D.C., as a “neighborhood wedding” — a church wedding followed by a reception in the family home for about 35 people.

“My mom worked all day on it. We didn’t have any air conditioning, and D.C. in July is very hot — very, very hot, honey,” Smith said. “It was lovely. My mother put it on. Then we honeymooned in Canada. … My wedding wasn’t elaborate. It was nice.”

Marjorie Smith wore her sister’s tiara on her wedding day. It wasn’t uncommon for brides to share wedding dresses, tiaras, jewelry and other items. The first to marry in her family, Mary Early of Bellevue bought a long-sleeve white satin dress with lots of lace for her wedding in 1949. Two cousins from Ireland and a girl in the neighborhood also wore the wedding dress in their weddings. In the 1980s, Early’s daughter, Patti Murphy of Bellevue, got married in the dress, too. Not bad for a $100 dress.

“I call it the ‘traveling dress,’” said Early.

Joyce Eberhardt and her mother went shopping for her trousseau — the personal possessions (typically clothes and linens) that a bride assembles before marriage. For Joyce, that meant all her honeymoon clothes. “I was married in July, but I still had a going-away suit with gloves,” she said.

To complete the bridal outfit, brides often turned to the familiar Victorian rhyme:

Something old, something new,

Something borrowed, something blue,

And a silver sixpence in her shoe.

Each item is a good-luck token. “Something old” symbolizes continuity with the bride’s family and the past. “Something new” means optimism and hope for the bride’s future. “Something borrowed” is usually an item from a happily married friend or family member, whose good fortune in marriage, it is hoped, will carry over to the new bride. The borrowed item also reminds the bride that she can depend on her friends and family. (The borrowed item should be returned to secure that luck.) As for the colorful item, blue has been connected to weddings for centuries as a symbol of love, modesty and fidelity.

Joan McNeil of Bellevue followed the lucky rhyme when she got married on Aug. 28, 1948, to Manford McNeil. She wore her grandmother’s old handkerchief, a new veil, a borrowed satin wedding dress and a blue garter. So she was properly attired for her church wedding and church hall reception of roughly 100 guests, who were entertained by a singer and organ music.

The rhyme “was something that people said,” McNeil said. “A lot of people did it.”

Completing the rhyme, Joyce Eberhardt wore a penny in her sandal on her wedding day. A penny or a dime is often substituted for the silver sixpence in the bride’s shoe, but whatever the coin, it represents wealth and financial security. (A sixpence is a silver coin that was minted in Britain from 1551 to 1967 and is worth six pennies.)

Her husband, Wayne Eberhardt, had a different shoe experience. Merry pranksters wrote two words in big letters on the bottom of his shoes, one word on each shoe. So when Wayne knelt at the altar for communion, everyone read on the bottom of his shoes, “Help Me.”

Superstitions and pranks aside, the most important tradition is the vows. Traditional text or personalized prose, vows meld two lives into one. Married 57 years, Bernie Hancock of Bellevue said his marriage to Margie “then and is now the happiest day of my life.” The vows make all the difference.

“To love, to honor and obey — we married for keeps. We worked out our problems, which gave us great experience,” Hancock said. “It’s a great privilege to be around people like these. We didn’t marry and dissolve because something didn’t work out. We married and we worked it out.”



Here is advice for couples of all ages, especially the engaged and newlyweds.

“In planning, don’t go overboard.” – Gweneth Bliss of Issaquah

“It’s important to be married in your own home church so your friends there can support you.” – Gweneth Bliss of Issaquah

“Be sincere and honest with each other.” – Larry Bliss of Issaquah

“Don’t rush into it.” – Mary Early of Bellevue

“Never stay mad long.” – Joyce Eberhardt of Issaquah

“Humor gets us out of a lot of bad situations.” – Wayne Eberhardt of Issaquah

“Learn how to compromise at 60 percent to 40 percent. (Sixty percent compromise for men, 40 percent compromise for women, of course!)” – Bernie Hancock of Bellevue

“Have lots of patience and never go to bed mad. You have to get to know the person and be with them.” – Marjorie Smith of Bellevue

Talk to Us! Do you have a tip to keep a relationship or marriage healthy? Share it in the comments section.

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